Large Glass and Concrete Suncatcher

7 Materials
$10
4 Days
Medium





Large Glass and Concrete Suncatcher


As a lifelong lover of glass, I wanted to bring a bit of color into the garden without too much risk of it breaking. If only there was a substance to secure delicate pieces of glass, to ensure the sunlit reflections would be there not only during spring and summer, but well into the other seasons.


Nothing is as beautiful as a vibrantly colored display in the dead of winter. This sounds like a job for glass and concrete!

Choose a mold...
Pick a mold, any mold...


Years ago, I worked at an industrial fan company that frequently threw obsolete manufacturing items into the trash, including large plastic forms known as fan housings. A big fan of 'waste not, want not', half a dozen housings found their way home with me. We won't go into detail of how long ago that was, but it is time they serve a purpose, instead of taking up room in the garage.As the housings feature both a rounded and a squared side, this basically gave me two molds in one for my Concrete Sun-catcher project, though I've chosen the round side for now.


The sun-catcher can be cast inside the mold as is, or cut off, for ease of use.Please note, a fan housing is hardly required for this tutorial.


There are many items you may very well have laying around your home, which can be used successfully. Any size plastic plant container. It can be large, or even small.Perhaps a stepping stone mold, no matter the size.


A wooden box frame, preferably with depth and smooth sides. A hole, dug in the ground. (No, I'm not kidding, though it might be a bit tricky to get out after the concrete cures.) Be sure your glass blocks are not too short for the mold, or they will be covered with concrete.

Packing tape will secure two halves together.
Cut the glass bottle blocks on a tile saw...


It is not mandatory that you cut the blocks, but I prefer the bottles to be seen from both sides. You could also cap the uncut bottles with a rubber-type cork, to keep moisture and bugs out of the bottles, and use those, instead.

If you are not familiar with using a wet tile saw, I have provided an entire tutorial on instruction for such. Come visit, and I'll help you.

Arrange your glass blocks in a pattern.
Designing and Assembling the Suncatcher


Pick a mold, pick a pattern, or place the glass blocks randomly. Experiment by mixing and matching. Use your imagination, or use a specific design. Now is your time to shine. Be creative.


Remember to leave enough space between the bricks / blocks to contain them. They can be placed horizontally, or even vertically, though if placed sideways, be sure to cap off the ends. The original lids, or even cork and tape would help to keep out moisture, bugs, dirt, and such, to keep your bottles clean and shiny.

Be sure to add water first, then cement mix.
Time to mix the cement...


In a large container, add the required amount of water for your project, according to package instructions, then pour the cement mix on top of the water. This will prevent the dry mix from sticking, hiding beneath the bulk, which often results in a dry surprise when you think it is time to make concrete.


If using a cement mixer, allow it to run long enough to thoroughly mix. Turn off the mixer, and use a tool to make certain the entire batch is wet, and mixed.


Plan your project in a timely fashion, so the mixture is not setting around, drying. Mix up, use up, wash up! Take care to clean your tools, so they will not be coated with permanent gunk.

Carefully distribute the mix around blocks.
Time to make...


Spray the mold with a release agent: Once you have a pattern in mind, remove all the blocks from the mold, and spray the mold with a release agent. I've made dozens of projects using vegetable cooking spray. A generic brand will be just fine. Spray the mold liberally, but don't leave globs. I've even used an expired block of Crisco shortening, though you should be careful not to leave blobs of shortening in the mold.


Place your blocks: Unless you plan to create a frame that will hold your bottles precisely in place, keep in mind that they are likely to shift a bit during project completion. It is quite normal, and a slight movement will not affect their finished beauty. Add cement:After you have placed your bottles in the pattern of your choice, now is the time to add cement mixture. Using gloved hands, or a hand shovel, scoop a

good portion of cement into the spaces between the glass blocks. It is a good idea to hold the glass blocks with one hand, while scooping, so as not to disturb the placement of the blocks. You might have to slightly reposition them a time or two, but be sure to press down on them as you move them, to keep cement from gathering beneath the block.


Remember, taping two glass blocks together with tape will form a seal, so the blocks will contain air. You don't want them to pop out of the mold full of cement, so consider placing something heavy on top of the project until it is dry. Make certain the heavy item does not come in contact with the cement. I just happened to have a spare plate from a microwave carousel in the garage, waiting to be used. Add a few

bricks for good measure, and perfect!

Pat down to make sure cement is distributed.
Neat and tidy...


Press and wipe off the glass blocks:Pat and tuck cement all around the mold, between the blocks, pressing as you fill. Once the mold is filled in, tap or firmly bump the edges of the mold to settle the mixture, but not so much that you disturb the blocks. Pat the cement so that it is smooth as can be.


Now is the time to also gently wipe the tops of the blocks with a wet cloth, though be careful not to disturb the cement. While clean-up will also occur after the color wheel is removed, it doesn't hurt to save yourself some scrubbing time now. Hold down the tops of the blocks while you wipe, so as not to disturb their placement.


Note: USING A VIBRATORY DEVICE IS NOT RECOMMENDED. My first color wheel was almost a disaster. I placed the entire mold on top of a vibratory tumbler, and it shook all of the blocks to the top, creating almost 3/8" of cement beneath the bottles, which I did not discover until I took it out of the mold. I had to hurry up and blindly chisel the concrete away. Thank goodness that was the backside, so hopefully no one will notice.

Neat and tidy, nice and clean.
Clean-up, just do it!


Though not the most fun part of this project, cleanup is vital. You'll want to take care of your equipment, so it will serve you well for future projects.


Be certain you have cleaning cloths and fresh water available. Cleaning the residue from your bottle faces will be a breeze if you use an attachment for your speed drill. There are many models available, though I used what we had on hand. If you have used a concrete mixer, be sure to add plenty of clean water to the tank, and swish it around, either by hand, or running the mixer.


Turn off the mixer before trying to wipe the inside. Once the mixer is turned off, adjust the tank so that it dumps the dirty water out. Repeat this process until you are satisfied it is clean. Leave the tank facing downward in order to empty the remaining water and any fine sand.

Wear rubber gloves when working with cement.
You'll need a few supplies...


SAFETY! 


Safety glasses, safety precautions, safety, safety, safety.

TILE SAW - if cutting the bottles. While I have an older QEP Wet Tile Saw, I'm definitely hoping to upgrade.


MIXING TOOLS and CONTAINERS - a spoon, a drill, a concrete mixer, depending on the size of your project


BUCKET, wheelbarrow, or other container in which you will mix cement, sand, and a construction aggregate.*Construction aggregate: Construction aggregate, or simply aggregate, is a broad category of coarse- to medium-grained particulate material used in construction, including sand, gravel, crushed stone, slag, recycled concrete and geosynthetic aggregates. Aggregates are the most mined

materials in the world.(Thank you, Wikipedia)


GLASS BOTTLES - Various glass bottles of whatever colors delight your imagination.


FRAME - mold, or other structure to contain cement mix until set.TAPE - Heavy-Duty packing tape works well for this project. If the tape is too wide, you may need to cut it in half, lengthwise. You may use duct tape, shipping tape, or other heavy-duty tape. The color won't matter, as it won't be seen.


BURLAP - Or other fabric, which will be soaked and used to cover the project while curing.


PLASTIC SHEETING - Even a trash bag will help to keep the moisture in, placed on top of the fabric covering your project while it cures.


CEMENT MIX- Whether a ready-made mix, or a combination you've made at home. Rapidset brand Cement All is a multi-purpose repair material, and non-shrink grout. Note the 4" thickness limit. See a DATA SHEET for this product.Cement All was suggested by my favorite mosaic artist, Jackie Stack Lagakos. If anyone knows her materials, it is Jackie.


CEMENT MIXER - Not necessary, but certainly easier than mixing by hand. I just have an inexpensive mixer from Harbor Freight Tools. It works just fine.


WATER - Plenty of water for mixing cement, washing equipment after use, washing hands, general clean-up.

Sunlight on our Koi.
Place your suncatcher in the light, and you're done!


Now to find the perfect place for your new suncatcher.


These suncatchers are designed to be upright, not used as stepping stones, though they can be laid down on the ground, if you are certain no one will walk or stand on them.


You can lean them against a tree, a fence, or other secure place that would still allow the light to shine through. You might even want to place larger stones as wedges to keep the suncatcher from rolling, should you decide to leave it freestanding on its edge.


Enjoy!

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Karen Manasco
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Frequently asked questions
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3 of 6 questions
  • Shar Shar on Sep 14, 2021

    can you not hot glue the cut bottles in place before hand?

  • Barbara Zorzin Barbara Zorzin on Sep 14, 2021

    I don't understand the fish insert?

  • Kim Kim on Sep 15, 2021

    So fun! I really like what you’ve done! I’m curious as to what the actual dimensions of your finished sun catchers turn out to be. With no reference it’s hard to tell in the pictures.

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